Recently I was at a beautiful birth. I arrived half an hour after receiving the call that the mother was in labour and when I arrived she was already pushing (note to second-time pregnant people: things often move faster once your body has been through it). I was in awe of this mother's strength and beauty as she pushed. She handled every contraction with grace and power. She was in control of her breathing. She knew what was happening and let her body do what it knew how to do. The baby was born and both mom and baby were well. It was *awesome*!
What happened next was not as awesome. The mother needed stitches and found this process to be even more painful than the birth itself. I coached her to breathe (just like in labour) to move through the pain. She was holding her partner's hand. Things were going as well as could be expected; she wasn't comfortable but she could manage. But then there were a few off comments by her midwife. I want to give a shout out to midwives here! The midwives I had for my own births and others I've known and have worked with are amazing. What midwives offer in general, such as choice in birth place, home visits, excellent pre- and post-natal care, and a feminist approach to birth, all of this deserves endless praise and gratitude! But this particular midwife was perhaps having a bad day. Or perhaps is not exemplary of the very best in midwifery care. Or, most likely, has done so many births without a break that she has started to lose sight of the person at the centre of her care. She was competent. But her bedside manner was a little lacking. And, so, while this woman was being stitched up and experiencing some real discomfort, the midwife started complaining about her own quads hurting because of a workout she did earlier. My client replied:
"Right now I think I get to be the one complaining about the pain. Talk to me when you have a needle in your vagina."
This moment was my favourite moment at this birth. Watching the pushing: awe-inspiring. Being there the moment life enters the world: breathtaking. But watching this mom, having just experienced labour and delivery, having welcomed her little new child, having been through one of the most intense experiences we humans ever go through, watching her muster the wit and the sass necessary for this line really inspired me.
We as women are too often told we are "too much." We are too loud, too large, too opinionated, too smug, especially when we are taking care of ourselves or kicking ass in our respective fields of work or study, we are told to tone it down a little, not take up too much space. Yet here is this woman, naked and in pain, holding her ground and taking up space. Here she is articulating that she is at the centre of this moment, she deserves at least that, and reminding those around her to see her as the full and complex being she is, we all are. I love this woman! I love this birth!
So, pregnant people, women, anyone reading this who has sometimes felt that they are sidelined in the middle of their own moment, take a little inspiration from this woman. The reason she rocked her birth is the same reason she was able to advocate for herself: she knows, trusts, and loves herself. In this life, when it comes to birth, to business, to babies, to being, we would all do better to follow her lead: breathe, lean on those who love you, be open to the joy and beauty of life, remain present, trust yourself and your body, and when all else fails, a little sass goes a long way!